A tough opening weekend for Breckenridge Bucks hockey | SummitDaily.com

A tough opening weekend for Breckenridge Bucks hockey

Tensions were high as the Breck Bucks played mountain rival Aspen Leafs on opening weekend. The teams faced each other in the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League Final Four, with the Bucks losing in overtime 6-7.
Special to the Daily |

Friday night’s Breckenridge Bucks game against the Aspen Leafs was the start of a new era in Summit County sports. Never before had a level of hockey this high been seen in the county, and, as the first face-off neared, a buzz of excitement filled the stands.

“We’re lucky to have it. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out over the season; I mean how much hockey is played over 9,600 feet?” asked Silverthorne resident Mark Pierson with a smile.

When the time turned 8:05, the puck dropped, and the inaugural 2015-16 Breckenridge Bucks season was underway.

Aspen dominated the puck early on and struck first — only 3:59 in, with a power-play goal from Trent Luby. He had nimbly worked around two Bucks defenders, which opened up a point-blank opportunity against goalie Lincoln Riley. He then beat Riley with a saucer shot, perfectly placed through the five-hole (between goalie’s legs).

Aspen continued to control play, as Ivan Bondarenko scored two more for the Leafs before the end of the period — and another at the beginning of the second.

Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse for the Bucks, a glimmer of hope appeared. Around 10:01 in the second, forward Jake Wener skated in from the left side of the ice and drew two defenders. He niftily maneuvered through both, looped around the goal and fed former Summit High player George Kamins in front. After a few seconds of frantic hacking and pokes, he managed to get the puck past Aspen goalie Anders Brucker for the goal.

It wasn’t pretty, but it seemed all too fitting that a Summit native would score the first goal in Breckenridge Bucks history.

“It was awesome … . My friend busted his butt to get in front of the net,” said Kamins.

The goal not only got the Bucks on the scoreboard but ignited a fire under the team for the remainder of the period. Playing aggressively and with new confidence, the Bucks dominated offensively but still could not find the back of the net.

Down 5-1 going into the third, the Bucks still had hope for a comeback; however, these hopes would be dashed only 1:18 seconds in, when Andrew Lee scored a power-play goal for the Leafs.

Despite outshooting the Leafs in the final frame, the Bucks still couldn’t muster another goal and dropped the season opener, 7-1.

Aspen was 3-10 on power plays in Friday’s game.

“First junior hockey game for a lot of players … . We just got to clean things up, and tomorrows’ a new day,” said Bucks head coach Jesse Davis.

In the series finale the next day on Saturday, the Bucks held their own in the first — controlling the pace of play and drastically increasing their time of possession. Unfortunately, penalty woes still continued to haunt.

The Bucks racked up 16 minutes of total penalties in the first period alone. The Leafs would take advantage of the shorthanded Bucks at 11:09, with a goal from Cal Edrmann into the top right corner of the net.

However, that’s where the first period would end, and, down only one goal, things still looked bright for the Bucks as long as they could stay out of penalty trouble.

The Bucks drew fewer penalties but also lost all offensive rhythm in the second. Aspen took advantage, putting on an offensive clinic with 21 shots and five goals, which propelled the Leafs to a 6-0 lead, going into the second intermission.

In the third period, the Bucks did outshoot the Leafs, but most shots lacked velocity and usually found a home square in Brucker’s chest. Aspen added two more insurance goals, and with an 8-0 win, took a sweep of the weekend.

It’s clear that what’s most needed for this young Bucks squad is offensive cohesiveness and overall hockey discipline. The Bucks only had one goal, with 76 minutes of penalty time over the weekend.

“Took a lot of stupid penalties, a lot of retaliation penalties; we’ve got to clean that up,” explained Davis. “We’ll get through it. This is a big weekend for me to learn what we have as a hockey team, and it’s a big weekend for these guys to learn what junior hockey is all about.”

The Bucks have six days to regroup before heading west to Grand Junction on Friday, to take on the (0-2) Glacier Yetis. The game will be broadcast live, at 7:00 p.m. on Krystal 93.1 FM.

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